Note: The Instagram Live interview referenced in this letter is on YouTube, and for additional context on Scott Wiener’s paid work on Anthony Falco’s book, Pizza Czar, see my Instagram Story Highlight. Additionally, I discussed the Scott Wiener interview with Meal Magazine which can be watched on Instagram TV.
The interview that you conducted was framed in terms of redeeming Anthony Falco and holding me accountable for publicizing his problematic behavior. During the interview, you went as far as saying that “it’s important to hold accountable anybody who’s writing about that stuff to make sure that accusations all have backup.”
When you contacted me to do the interview, you wrote the following, “Hey Joe I just re-read your Falco highlight after receiving a copy of his book. I’d love to do an IG live interview about it with you if you’re up for it. I think it would be interesting to talk about the whole situation and maybe explain it for people who haven’t read through all the posts. Let me know what you think.”
When you announced the IG Live, you held up the book and said, “…I’m going to be doing an interview on Instagram Live about this book, Pizza Czar….” The book came out the day after our interview, and you mentioned its imminent release during the IG Live. At no point did you disclose to me that you were paid to work on the book, and I had started investigating that immediately after the interview.
You specifically mentioned Pizza Czar’s release as the factor that precipitated the interview. That you were paid by Anthony Falco to fact check and proofread Pizza Czar is a clear conflict of interest. Being paid by Falco to work on his book does not necessarily cause you to behave differently, but it’s a necessary disclosure to make, and it’s critical context for your conduct during the interview.
Falco had made a racist Instagram post in 2014 that featured him alongside an Asian Roberta’s employee, [redacted name]. Falco had squinted his eyes in the photo, and Falco wrote in the caption, “which one of us is asian ?”
It’s a photo that, like the Adam Rapoport brownface photo, is problematic regardless of context, and it’s problematic in a general sense. There isn’t a specific individual harmed by the photo that can apologize for it. In both the cases of Falco and Rapoport, the posts were relevant years after being made because of their continued and consistent problematic behavior. And I think the parallels between Falco’s post and Rapoport’s brownface photo are what led Falco to delete the caption of his post just over two weeks after Rapoport’s brownface photo was surfaced by Tammie Taclemarian.
Below is a transcript of the section of the interview in which we discussed the racist Falco post. You brought up the other person who was in the photo next to Falco, and you said “didn’t that person reach out to you and explain that, that person was a friend of his” and you added that they claimed I was “taking things out of context”:
Scott Wiener: So, I know who it is that you’re talking about, and I want to leave their name out of it because that name is not—
Joe Rosenthal: The person in the picture is not pertinent to the actual picture—
SW: Yeah but didn’t that person reach out to you and explain that, that person was a friend of his and that they didn’t like that you posted that because you were taking things out of context.
JR: I’m not at liberty to talk about what I’ve spoken [about] with anyone. I think the fact is, last summer, there was a picture released of Adam Rapoport
SW: Wait, wait, I’m sorry, before we go onto Adam Rapoport I just want to clarify this, because I know the people involved and I know that in this particular instance, not to say that isn’t right to ever say something like that, but in that instance, I know that this person didn’t agree with your perspective on the situation.
I was not told by [redacted name] that they were friends with Anthony Falco and that the photo was out of context. Regardless, if a friend of Falco told me that an obviously and commonly racist post was out of context, it would not change my interpretation of the post, nor should it—no friend of Adam Rapoport’s could have changed the perception of his brownface photo, and you should not have given any breath to that argument, an argument that was designed to apologize for Anthony Falco by attempting to discredit me.
I had assumed that you spoke to [redacted name] because, in the interview, you claimed that you “know the people involved and I know that in this particular instance… that this person didn’t agree with your perspective on the situation.” What was the basis for that claim?
After the interview, I brought up the fact that I thought you spoke with [redacted name] to defend Anthony Falco’s racist post, and you responded with the following, “I’ve never spoken to [redacted name] about you. I’ve only met [them] once and we talked about ice cream.” Why did you claim to “know the people involved” when, by your own admission, you didn’t know [redacted name] and only spoke to them once, about ice cream?
I asked you how the information was obtained if not directly from [redacted name], and you did not address my question. I asked again, directly, “Did Anthony Falco tell you that? Did you repeat an unverified claim from Falco during the interview without confirming it with [redacted name]?” And you never responded to me again.
I will ask you again, was that information that you received second-hand from Anthony Falco?
Throughout the interview, there were comments from the audience begging you to stop interrupting me and expressing disappointment in your behavior. Here’s some examples of some comments made by viewers during the interview. Every single comment below was visible during the Instagram Live, and I think every single one is worth considering carefully:
My public announcement that you were paid to work on Anthony Falco’s book and that you failed to disclose that payment did not change the sentiment toward your conduct in that interview: it validated what many were feeling and what many expressed during the interview itself.
You announced our Instagram Live interview to your audience 15 minutes prior to the start of it. My Falco article is at least a 20 minute read. No one could possibly read that and look at my "Falco/Bigotry" Story Highlight prior to the interview, not to mention see anything else that I’ve done.
When you posted the finished interview to Instagram, you didn’t tag me. I immediately expressed that I should be tagged so that people can find my profile and my work. I expressed that in a comment in response to your post, and I expressed it again later, in a DM. You have ignored both. By failing to tag me, you’ve obfuscated the context of my work, which goes well beyond Anthony Falco or the pizza world specifically.
You repeatedly said that I had an “obsession” with Falco. You said it twice, despite my objection. You characterized my position on Falco as “not liking” him, which was described by a commenter during the interview as “reductive.” Combined with your failure to actually link to my profile and by removing the context of my work, you promoted a narrative that I have singularly focused on Falco due to personal dislike.
My work has gone beyond Anthony Falco or even the pizza world: I’ve written extensively about Alison Roman, Condé Nast, Sqirl, Angela Dimayuga & Quynh Le, Prince Street Pizza, The God of Cookery, Borscht Belt, and many others. I’ve done interviews with Meal Magazine, Indigestion, GrubStreet and Forbes that go into detail on why I do what I do, and it is not driven by a personal dislike. You can look to my interview with Have You Eaten Yet? about Prince St. Pizza or my interview with Hot Takes on a Plate about Sqirl for examples of how to discuss my methods and evidence without casting doubt on my work.
You claimed, “I did the interview because it’s something I thought should be brought up on public.” Throughout the interview, you attempted to stop me from referring to my own work and establishing the context thereof. You didn’t give your audience any time to actually see my work in advance, and after the fact, by not tagging me, you removed the ability for people to readily find my work.
You knew about my article on Falco since it released in March 2020, and I know that you’ve specifically and directly heard about Falco’s problematic behavior from multiple parties even prior to the release of my article. You continued supporting Falco and became a paid member of his book team despite that.
Nearly two months after the release of my article, you featured Falco in a virtual pizza tour with Breville. You described the series of tours as a way of being able to “visit my pizza buddies without violating lockdown.” Was it not important to bring the information to the public then?
I believe that you did the interview with me because Pizza Czar was releasing imminently; I’ve become too big to ignore, and you thought you could dismantle my arguments, redeem Falco, and you and others could continue supporting him unfettered. I believed that prior to the interview, and your behavior since has affirmed that. Even after the interview, you have made it abundantly clear that you do not want the public to read my reporting.
If anyone in the pizza world is suddenly taking the situation with Anthony Falco seriously, it’s because you failed to discredit me, and you failed to successfully argue for Anthony Falco’s redemption. The interview was not conducted in good faith, and after years of complicity with your enabling of problematic behavior from Anthony Falco and others, amplifying someone pushing for accountability in your industry is the bare minimum. You do not get a pat on the head for casting doubt on the accusations against Anthony Falco.
During the interview, you asked if there were any questions, and so I posed my own: “what’s your next step? What’s next after this chat? Has this changed your position on promoting Pizza Czar? Has this changed your position on promoting people in general?” In response you told me that “it’s definitely made me think a lot about looking into more people.”
Soon thereafter, you started promoting Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Pizza. Myhrvold has been referred to as “The Ultimate Patent Troll” and the world’s biggest troll. He’s caused so much harm that he’s the villain of two episodes of This American Life. Myhrvold is a known associate of child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. He’s listed with 12 phone numbers in Epstein’s Black Book, and he’s flown on Epstein’s private jet multiple times. Vanity Fair reported that Epstein visited Myhrvold’s patent troll firm and “brought along ‘young girls’ who looked like ‘Russian models’.” Additionally VF wrote that “Myhrvold spoke openly about borrowing Epstein’s private jet and staying at Epstien’s houses in Palm Beach and Manhattan. Myhrvold has also been accused of having underage sex by, of all people, fellow Epstein pal Alan Dershowitz.”
The patent trolling alone ought to have been disqualifying.
You purport to want to do better. Do better. You spent an hour trying to redeem a man against claims of abuse and bigotry and you were more concerned with holding me accountable than anything else. Own those decisions, stop trying to rationalize and excuse it. Do better.
The resistance to holding problematic men accountable is endemic to many industries beyond that of pizza. That resistance is intrinsically tied to white male supremacy; it comes with the belief that white men are entitled to the positions that they hold, and that redemption demands a return to those positions. The status quo in pizza, and other realms, maintains these problematic figures in these positions, and “redemption” is viewed as a means of returning problematic figures to prominence, devoid of consequences.
In another comment made in response to the Interview video post, you wrote, “Redemption was a poor word choice by me. What I meant was, what can Falco do next? It’s an honest question. I just wanted to start a path toward resolution. I know lots of pizza makers in nyc and across the country and I work with them all the time so I have a unique position to help…or at least I thought I did.”
You absolutely are in a position to help. But the question at this point ought not to be
What can Falco do next?, it's what will the pizza world do next? To change the status quo requires radical action. It demands that you and others in positions of power stop enabling and empowering perpetrators of abuse and bigotry and take an active effort to combat inequity. Giving a platform to me means nothing if you take that opportunity to cast doubt and send the message that those who call out abuse and bigotry should be distrusted. Whether or not that was your intent, that message was loudly received, and it tells those who’ve been marginalized and abused that they do not matter.
Either you believe the evidence of Anthony Falco’s problematic behavior and believe it to be disqualifying, or you do not. If you do not, I think you need to interrogate
why not?, and if you do believe the evidence and believe it to be disqualifying, do something about it.